Monday, May 27, 2013

Lessons learned

It's been a week since my surgery. I have failed miserably at many things in that time, but have learned much too: funny how those things tend to go hand in hand.

I've learned that rest is an elusive concept. Sometime rest looks like sitting in the bed of my truck writing thank you notes while sweet men work hard to redeem my front yard. Sometimes it looks like a nearly 5 hour nap after going to church. Every day has it's own level of energy, and every day has it's own opportunities for doing way to much and not resting enough. There are days when I feel great, and can do a lot, but then the next day I really pay for it. It's difficult to sit down before I fall down.

I've learned I'm terrible at accepting help. I feel like a spoiled princess when I'm sitting on the couch reading or napping while others are cleaning my house, or bringing me dinner, or running errands for me. I want to thank them a thousand times over, but the words "thank you" feel wholly inadequate. I want to tell them I don't need the help, but my body tells me that my prideful heart is wrong. I want to be self-sufficient. God is really using this season to beat into my thick head that I am never self-sufficient even on my good days. I always need God. I always need family. I always need friends. I always need the body of Christ.

I've learned that I have come to really value solitude. When I was younger the word solitude made me antsy. It was something for old people, and the super-religious folks. But I have spent a lot of time alone in the last year. I'll admit, I get lonely. I ache for conversation and eye contact with other humans. But this week of constant, precious companionship with my husband has made me ache for the silence of solitude. I can pray, sing, cry, laugh, dance, contemplate, read, and be still by myself in a way that doesn't happen with others around. Worship flows differently when it's just me and God.

I've learned I'm terrible at small talk. I think this flows out of my love of solitude. Words, when used, should have weight. Flighty words of light conversations are hard for me to get a firm grasp on. I've sort of lost the ability to just sit and chat. It's like my heart has jumped the easing in stage and just wants to jump in the deep end with people, even if it feel like drowning sometimes. This makes casual visits difficult, and I think makes well-intentioned people feel awkward. Not everyone is wired to just jump right in.

I've learned more about the goodness of God. When I need rest, he gives it in buckets. When I need my heart fed, he gives his Word, in season. When I need encouragement, he sends just the right people to speak kindness. When I need an attitude adjustment, he gives conviction. He is so good to use all things to conform me to the image of his Son, Jesus. There is a lot of me still festering deep inside, and it bubbles up to the surface like sulfuric stink pots at the most inopportune times. I am not faithful. But he is ever faithful. And he is always teaching me, growing me, shaping me to be less like me, and more like him.

I pray for a teachable heart.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Glimpses Behind the Curtain

I've heard the teaching pastor at our church talk a couple times about God pulling back the curtain of eternity and letting us see what is going on behind the scenes. I used to think that was only applicable to certain passages in the Bible, but the last few weeks have shown me that it can be day to day life too.

I got a call from my neurologist yesterday. He said all of the results from the other tests he had ordered were back, everything is normal. Brain MRI - clean. 13 vials of blood - all normal. Then he says "sometimes you just get lucky." The Carotid Doppler he ordered is what found the tumor. Apparently he doesn't remember why he ordered it, because usually he doesn't. All I could hear in my heart when he said that was, "you're not lucky, you are loved by the Creator of all things!"

When I sat in the surgeon's office scheduling my surgery I was the surprised that they were getting me in for surgery less than a week after my first appointment with him. The scheduler said that once I've waited so long to see the doctor they work hard to get me in ASAP for surgery. I asked how far out he was scheduled - a month and a half. They had called me the day before to schedule me. "Oh, I remember talking to the lady who was scheduling you. It was so bizarre, we had 3 cancellations in a row while she was on the phone with you! I couldn't believe you were going to come in the next day!" My heart leapt at the hand-print of God all over that.

I was referred to a different surgeon initially, but he is out of the country. My neurologist "just happened" to talk to an intern in his office group who recommended the new surgeon. While I was waiting to hear back from the neurologist I had a conversation with a lady at church who warned me that the first surgeon had terrible bedside manner when she saw him. "He's a good surgeon, just not great with people, so just go in expecting that and you'll be fine." The second surgeon was really nice, and everyone in the office spoke very highly of him. And my friend James works at the hospital with him, says he's an excellent surgeon, and James will be working on the day after my surgery when I'm in recovery. I was so panicked that I couldn't get in with the first surgeon, now it seems so obvious that I should be with the second surgeon instead.

Every Mother's Day since I've been married has been difficult. We go to a church that is chock full of babies, and completed adoptions, and child dedications on Mother's Day feel like a punch in the gut to me. I prayed that I would have joy this year, instead of jealousy. That morning I woke up with an unexpected smile. At church dear friends who have had several miscarriages sat next to us on their first Sunday back at church since their beautiful baby boy was born. This was her first Mother's Day with her son, and all I could think of was the kindness of God to bring this boy into this precious little family that I adore! It was still a difficult day, but the old bitterness and jealousy just wasn't there.

Story after story, big and small, God has pulled the veil back so that I can see his fingerprints in every corner of my life. I have had many times in my life that I have prayed and ached to see an answer. And sometimes those answers are "no" or "wait" or "someday" kind of answers. My heart easily loses faith, wonders if God is listening, if he cares, if we're in this alone. And then every once in a while, he lets me see his miracles all around me. And I rejoice, not in the miracles, but in the One who spoke the miraculous into existence.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grace upon Grace

Remember this - had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you are, divine love would have put you there. - Spurgeon

Grace is in every crack and crevice of my life. It's like water, always finding a way in, always working down deeper into places in my heart I didn't even know were vulnerable. Then as my heart gets cold, the grace expands, cracks me open, and makes more room for grace. And every once in a while I get moments where I can look back and see it in every breath along the way.

I got married later than I thought I would. It wasn't in my timeline to get married at 26. And I almost married the wrong man because I was so desperate to not be single anymore. I chose all the wrong men for me, and stumbled through relationships that pummeled my heart with impermanence.

BUT God chose someone better for me. And God prepared him to be my husband. And God knit our hearts together in miraculous ways that only God can.

I used to beg God for pregnancy. Every month I would weep with the confirmation that once again I did not have life growing in my belly. I read about barren women in the Bible with profound understanding. I got their urgency and desperation. I got their willingness to do whatever it took, even things outside of what God told them to do. It made sense to me. The ache made me bitter. Was God punishing me for some earlier indiscretions in my life? Did he make my body broken just to mess with me and make my marriage harder? Oh, the bitterness of my heart!

BUT God knew there would come a day when I couldn't take care of myself. God knew there would be days when my husband would carry me to bed like a child because I couldn't move. God knew what was coming, and in his mercy didn't give me children.

I was sure with everything in me that we were adopting a beautiful 12 year old girl. I knew she was mine. I prepared her room, and my heart for her imminent arrival. I waited with joy and hope. Then things got complicated. And we heard conflicting stories. And she turned 13, then 14. And we finally had to face to truth, she wasn't coming home. I took her beautiful bed apart and it felt like my heart came apart in big chunks as well. I struggled with the goodness of God. I know that God is sovereign, but I had to preach to myself that God is good. It just didn't make sense! There are too many unanswered questions. There is still the place in my heart that loves a girl I will never meet.

BUT God knows intimately every breath of my life, and has planned them all perfectly for my good because of the great love with which he has loved me. He knows I have questions that may never have answers in my lifetime, but he lets me ask them anyway. He knows how my heart aches for children, and has blessed me with dozens of kids who are so woven into my heart I rejoice in their every triumph, and weep over their broken hearts. And yet I don't have to care for them every moment of every day.

And now I have doctors telling me there is a tumor growing in my neck. It's messing with my nerves, and disrupting blood flow, and generally wreaking havoc. I sat in a room waiting for a woman to deliver bad news to me, and the immediate outpouring of my heart was "Jesus, I trust you." I laid in the MRI tube trying not to panic, and God caused me to remember his attributes, who he is to me, and my heart became so peaceful I was able to sleep. I struggle to swallow and God reminds me of  sweet little boy I know who has trouble swallowing for totally different reasons, and I pray for him. My heart starts to worry about the future, and surgery, and tumor location, and then I hear my voice singing "Great is Thy Faithfulness" without my even thinking to do so.

This is grace upon grace.

God has given me the husband he made for me to comfort, protect, guide, and pray for me. When I am afraid, he reminds me that God is my refuge and strength. When he is afraid, I can remind him that God is good, and sovereign. We're on this road together, hand in hand.

Sweet grace.

In times when my hands are numb, or my legs won't work, I thank God that I don't have babies to hold, or toddlers to chase. When I realized I shouldn't drive in the afternoons, I thanked God that I didn't have kids to pick up from school. My heart still aches for kids in my home, but I am so comforted by God's perfect timing. And my sweet church kids give me hugs on Sundays, and send me emails that they are praying for healing and trust in God for me, and bring laughter to my heart.

Precious grace.

I'm more forgetful than ever right now, but God brings to mind songs I learned as a child that are Bible truth. Scripture I didn't even know I had memorized pops into my head and just the right moments of desperation. Friends text me reminders of God's love and faithfulness right in the midst of my fearfulness. All the added stresses and fears that I pile on my weak heart, God lays on the hearts of sweet friends to take care of for me. Others are bearing burdens for me in real and tangible ways.

Inexplicable grace.

Undeniable grace.

Pervasive grace.

Grace upon grace.